Bar Association to Pursue Action Against Sara Netanyahu's Lawyer

Subject to hearing, panel may punish lawyer Yossi Cohen, who castigated the judge who ruled in favor of a former worker at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Lawyer Yossi Cohen with his client, Sara Netanyahu, in October, 2015.
Emil Salman

The Israel Bar Association's ethics committee has decided, subject to a hearing, to pursue disciplinary proceedings against Yossi Cohen, who represented Sara Netanyahu in a case involving a former employee at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Last week, the Jerusalem District Labor Court found in favor of former maintenance worker Guy Eliyahu, who claimed to have been treated abusively by the First Lady.

The court's administration filed a complaint with the Bar Association as a result of the highly critical personal comments Cohen made against the judge, Dita Pruginin, following her verdict. Pruginin awarded Eliyahu a sum of 132,500 shekels ($34,200).

In reaction to the ruling, Cohen said, among other things: “The real abusive treatment is that by Judge Pruginin, who, as expected, again blatantly and in a biased manner ignored Mrs. Netanyahu’s testimony. The trial was carried out in a one-sided manner and Mrs. Netanyahu was not allowed to produce witnesses to refute Guy Eliyahu’s false and malicious lies. We intend to appeal this mistaken and biased decision.”

A statement by the ethics committee on Sunday declared that Cohen's comments were inconsistent with the code of ethics that applies to lawyers, and noted that disciplinary action against him was being considered, subject to a hearing.

Cohen was given 30 days to respond regarding his comments, which the panel characterized as “harsh and irresponsible.”

For his part, Cohen apologized for his remarks after the court and Bar Association issued their statements of condemnation.

“I have esteem and respect for all of the courts and the judges and treat them with respect,” Cohen wrote in a letter that he made available to the media. “My criticism of the district [labor] court focused on a particular legal proceeding that was damaging to the right of Mrs. Netanyahu to present witnesses. I do not and did not have any intention to personally harm the judge. I am sorry if the statements were understood otherwise.”